A group of school activists went to City Hall today with 40,000 signatures on a petition calling for city and state support in abolishing the School Reform Commission.
The lead petitioners, who include members of the Pennsylvania Working Families, teachers and parents, want the city to get control back of its schools. The way to do that, they believe, is by asking for a City Charter amendment that would ask the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to get rid of the SRC.
The group submitted to the City Clerk more than 40,000 petition signatures calling for a citywide referendum on the November ballot asking:
"Shall the Home Rule Charter be amended to call upon the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Governor to abolish the School Reform Commission and return local control of Philadelphia's schools?"
Only 20,000 valid petitions are required to demand a City Council vote to whether to put a referendum on the ballot. But even if council agrees to put it on the ballot and that question passes, it can't force state officials to toss out the SRC.
"Today 40,000 people are … demanding control of schools be returned to the people of Philadelphia," Gabe Morgan, district director of SEIU-32BJ, said at a small rally Wednesday. "This is going to be a long journey… it's time to let us vote on the issue."
Morgan and others who spoke at the rally Wednesday said the SRC has failed the city.
"Today is the day we begin take back control of our local schools," Morgan said. "The SRC has failed because it is not responsible to the city of Philadelphia, it is responsible to the people in Harrisburg."
The SRC was established in 2001, replacing the school board and shifting oversight of the school district to the state.